Where to Begin When Opening a New Role

During the first two quarters of 2016, 63% of hiring was the result of newly created positions—and that number is likely to keep rising. Increasingly, companies find themselves thinking about recruiting for a brand spanking new position. If your organization falls into this category, congratulations! Maybe you’re noticing a gap that’s just developed…or maybe it’s one that’s already kept some of your employees from getting other important work done. Either way, it’s essential to get a the process of opening a new role right early in the process. Like company culture, the longer a new position heads in the wrong direction, the harder it is to get it on the right path. And you don’t need a reminder of the pain and expense of an unsuccessful hire.

So, without further ado, here’s how to get a new position created, filled, and contributing to the company’s success without losing ground.

Kicking Things Off

Experienced hiring managers know what can happen when a company rushes into a opening a new role: a booby-trapped detour through the Fire Swamp of HR. Whether the rush is the result of not laying out what was needed beforehand or simply hiring the first (or second) warm body who lands an interview, the consequences can set a team, or the whole company, back several steps, just when progress is most urgent.

First, of course, the work that needs doing may not get done—or it doesn’t get done right. But the wrong hire also slows down everyone on the team, whether the problem is with the work or the person. And once the company has invested in a new hire, it can, understandably, take a distressingly long time to realize (and then admit) that it’s time to restart the search. Meanwhile, productivity and morale are damaged. A trifecta of tribulations.

It can be great to find someone with an entrepreneurial spirit who will help define the parameters of the new role, but don’t forget that you’re still hiring to get a specific job done. The more vague your job description, the longer it will take your new hire to start accomplishing those goals.

So, don’t write that job description until you’ve asked some crucial questions to help define the job.

First, talk to the people who will be immediately impacted by the new role. What are they doing now that they need to move off their plate? What isn’t getting done? How would they prioritize those tasks? In other words, how can the new role be designed to make their jobs easier, while fitting into the team as seamlessly as possible?

It can also be helpful to check in with your network to see what folks in similar roles are doing in other organizations. In addition to asking about job descriptions and essential competencies, you might ask if they hit any stumbling blocks integrating the new role into the company. Someone else has already been down this bumpy road; take advantage of their experience.

Once you’ve settled on what this new role will tackle and what your new hire will need in order to do it like a rockstar, don’t forget to think about how you’ll measure that success. What does success in the role look like after 6 months? A year? You should be able to identify what deliverables you’ll be looking for at appropriate intervals. Early on, you may even want to keep track of how well someone is getting to know the company and determine if there are skill gaps that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. 

Lastly, there’s the question of pay, and while determining a compensation package that will help attract the right candidates but won’t break the bank is nobody’s idea of a good time, it still has to be done. Again, getting a benchmark is invaluable, and, thankfully, a lot easier to do these days with sites like Payscale and Glassdoor, and, of course, your network. Keep in mind that a compensation package isn’t just the salary. Many of the best, and certainly the savviest, candidates will be interested in what you’re offering beyond the salary, in terms of health insurance, family leave, and other perks.

Bespoke Evaluation

Once you’ve written an irresistible job description, determine how you’ll interview candidates and then evaluate them. What are you looking for, based on what the job responsibilities? Does it make sense to do a take home, paired coding, or presentation as part of their assessment? 

Like so many businesses processes, iterating can be invaluable in developing a successful interview process. And you don’t even need to create (yet) another meeting to do it. After the first few candidates, do a quick check-in while you’re discussing the most recent interview. Are people with the right skills responding to the job description? Do you need to revise the interview process in some way? It’s never too late for an important tweak here and there. Each candidate debrief meeting isn’t just an opportunity to discuss the candidate in question, but to revisit and optimize the entire hiring process for the role.

Finally, if you’re hiring for a specific technical skill, like data science or AI, avoid candidates (or a job description) that encourages bringing the hammer of their technology to “the nails of whatever problems are lying around.” It can be especially tempting when you’re hiring for a whole new role, but you generally don’t want your new hire to spend time “looking for places to apply [that technology], effectively making the goal to use [the tech] rather than to solve real problems.” No technology is a magic bullet for every challenge a company faces.

Planning ahead when you’re ready to hire for a new role is like having your cake and eating it, too: each decision can be an informed one, but that doesn’t stop you from iterating along the way.

About the Author

Amy Johnson

Amy is a freelance writer and editor interested in the intersection of business, science, and social justice. She earned her PhD in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has a particular fondness for '70s soul and Barbara Stanwyck movies.